What Does UTV Stand For?

polaris rzr xp 1000 cl off road jpg Polaris UTV | photo by Christian Lantry

UTV stands for utility task vehicle, a type of off-road vehicle often known as a side-by-side — but neither name describes it well without further explanation. You might mistake a UTV for an ATV (all-terrain vehicle), but there are key differences: The UTV allows occupants to sit side by side (aha!) and typically is operated more like a car, with a steering wheel and pedals.

Related: What Does 4×4 Mean?

Conversely, an ATV is more like a motorcycle in that the operator straddles it and steers using the handlebars. It has three or four wheels and might allow a passenger to ride behind the operator, but if two or more people want to ride in relative comfort, a UTV is the better approach. Capable of carrying heavier loads, UTVs range from truly utilitarian vehicles not far removed from golf carts to highly engineered recreational 4x4s, sometimes abbreviated RUVs (recreational utility vehicles) or ROVs (recreational off-highway vehicle).

honda four trax rancher 2020 oem off road jpg Honda ATV | Honda photo

UTV popularity grew over the past decade in part because their seat belts and roll bars were expected to make them safer than ATVs, which had built a reputation as dangerous, but careless operators unfortunately sometimes mistake such provisions as signs of invincibility and find new ways to injure themselves. Regardless of vehicle type, driver training and caution are called for.

UTVs and ATVs can be driven on pavement, but whether they can be driven on public roads depends on the state and municipality in question (as such, we at don’t sell them). Some allow them, some require modification, licensing or both, and some forbid the vehicles apart from prompt street crossings.

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Former Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder, a launch veteran, led the car evaluation effort. He owns a 1984 Mercedes 300D and a 2002 Mazda Miata SE. Email Joe Wiesenfelder

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